Caring Commons, what do we mean?

By Andrea Botero and Tania Perez Bustos

” Care includes everything we do to maintain, continue and repair our ‘world’ so that we can live in it as well as possible. That world includes, our bodies, ourselves and our environment; all of which we seek to interweave in a complex life-sustaining web” (Tronto, 1993: 103).

care-peqThis session invites reflection on the relationship between the concepts of ”care” and ”commons”. This reflection includes identifying the obvious required acts for taking care of the commons (Brown& Spink 1997, Walljasper 2012) as well as looking at the singularities and commonalities of commons that deal with care (e.g. Cassel & Brennan 2007). However, we also believe that it is possible to reflect more generally on commons as a way of caring and in particular in the potential and limits of care as possible framework for understanding and locating communing and infrastructuring practices in design.

Recent developments around the category of care, mostly coming from feminist scholarship (Puig de la Bellacasa, 2010, 2012; Haraway, 2007, Singleton 2012, Rose, 1983, Suchman, 2011) allows us to think with and about care from a variety of scenarios and practices that go beyond particular occupations traditionally associated with it (e.g. healthcare, maintenance or reproductive labor). Potentially, care can be found in different contexts; rendering it valuable looking glass especially when caring seems to be out of place, superfluous or absent (Puig de la Bellacasa 2011). We believe this more general approach might help to illuminate many aspects of communing challenges and possibilities. There is a transformative and repairing potential in care as a way to deal with affections, interdependence as well as with marginality and precarization (dimensions usually associated with the concept) that can be worth exploring.

As a matter of fact in the recent conference on the Economics of the Commons held in Berlin earlier this year, one of the tracks and its keynote already hinted at the potentiality of looking closer at this relationship. On that occasion, focusing mostly on a particular caring context, that of ”reproductive care” work, and its relationship to so called ”productive” work (see Gottschlich 2013). We want to cast the net broader and ask, together with Star (1995) and Puig de la Bellacasa (2011):

What does it mean to care? Who cares? When and how we care? What is the role and power of Care in Commons context and in infrastructuring new commons? Perhaps through this we can trace seeds for how can we design with care?

Come with your project, ideas, questions and lets think together (Puig de la Bellacasa, 2012), what commons and care can learn from each other! Here the complete program of the seminar (7.11.2013),  and the registration form to the Caring Commons session.

Andrea & Tania


Brown, V., & Spink, M. (1997). Caring for the Commons: Socio-cultural Considerations in Oceans Policy Development and Implementation (Issue 4). Sydney, Australia: Centre for Research in Healthy Futures. University of Western Sydney.

Gottschlich, D. (2013). Doing away with “labour”: working and caring in a world of commons. Expeditions into (re)thinking the role of human (re)productive activity and its inherent nature in a generative commons network. Presented at the Economics and the Commons Conference 2013, Berlin. Retrieved from: A video of the Keynote presented by Heike Löschmann is available at:

Cassel CK, & Brennan TE. (2007). Managing medical resources: Return to the Commons? JAMA, 297(22), 2518–2521. doi:10.1001/jama.297.22.2518

Haraway, D. (2007). Introduction. En D. Haraway, When Species Meet, Posthumanities (págs. 3-44). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2010). Ethical doings in naturecultures. Ethics, Place & Environment, 13(2), 151–169. doi:10.1080/13668791003778834

Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2011). Matters of Care in Technoscience: Assembling Neglected Things. Social Studies of Science, 41(1), 85–106. doi:10.1177/0306312710380301

Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2012). ‘Nothing comes without its world’: thinking with care. The Sociological Review, 60(2), 197-216 doi: 10.1111/j.1467-954X.2012.02070.x

Rose, H. (1983). Hand, brain, and heart: A feminist epistemology for the natural sciences. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 9(1), 73–90.

Singleton, V. (2012). When Contexts Meet: Feminism and accountability in UK Cattle. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 37(4), 404-433.

Star SL (ed) (1995) Ecologies of Knowledge: Work and Politics in Science and Technology. Albany: State of New York University Press.

Suchman, L. (2011). Anthropological Relocations and the Limits of Design. Annual Review of Anthropology. 40, 1-18.

Tronto, J. C. (1993). Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care. Routledge, Chapman & Hall, Incorporated.

Walljasper, J. (2012, February 25). Caring for Those Who Care. On the Commons Magazine. Retrieved from

This entry was posted in seminar, SIGwork and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.